Compare Popular Hyaluronic Acid Serums
With thousands of hyaluronic acid serums available, selecting the best pure hyaluronic acid serum for your skin can be exhausting and confusing. We are here to help clarify differences and compare many hyaluronic acid serums & formulas.
We want to help make your decision less confusing by providing easy to understand facts on the actual differences of hyaluronic acid serums. Our nine cosmetic scientists provided us with the information and we transformed it into the easy guide below. We also list the most popular hyaluronic acid serum ingredient lists for direct comparison.
What are the Differences Between Hyaluronic Acid Serums?
Let's start with the weight or size, also known as molecular weight or dalton (mass).
There are literally thousands of hyaluronic acid weights (sizes).
Molecular weight or size is measured in mass of dalton (Da) or Kilodalton (kDa).
Dalton (Da) is an alternate name for the atomic mass unit, and kilodalton (kDa) is 1,000 daltons.
Thus hyaluronic with a mass of 86kDa has a molecular weight of 86,000 grams per molecule.
The Short Answer:
Hyaluronic acid weight determines its absorption ability.
The higher the weight, the bigger it's mass - which keeps it on the skins surface.
Referring to the diagram above, you can see the many different weights, aka sizes of hyaluronic acid. Although most topical hyaluronic acid serums on the market are made with very high weight HA or >1.800.000 (1.8M) daltons. This HMW hyaluronic acid in a serum forms a moisturizing film on the surface and lasts until it is washed off during cleansing.
Hence why experts agree that multiple weights in the same hyaluronic acid serum is the most effective and provides the longest lasting results of up to 48 hours.
In 2005, Watts Beauty took a top spot in popular skin care by combining various weights of hyaluronic acid into each pure hyaluronic acid serum formula for maximum effectiveness.
Hyaluronic acid in it's true form is very difficult to work with, it is unstable and difficult to blend with other ingredients. Therefore most hyaluronic acid serums are comprised of the more effective, less temperamental form of hyaluronic acid, which is Sodium Hyaluronate. This concentrate blends well, has a longer shelf life and offers longer lasting results.
Yes, you can purchase hyaluronic acid serum almost anywhere but know that NOT ALL hyaluronic serums or actual formulas are created equal. Hyaluronic acid comes from many sources (both vegan & animal), are available in various percentages % - aka strengths, purity - aka concentration and is formulated either pure or blended along with other ingredients like firming peptides or smoothing retinol.
Pure and blended serums both work wonders however, it's the unnecessary fillers, sulfates, chemicals, parabens, drying alcohols and others that turn a much needed hydrating serum into a drying and ineffective potion.
In this guide, we are focusing on pure hyaluronic acid serums, meaning that the main focus should be on the highest amount of hyaluronic acid in the formula. Below we explain what determines the amount of hyaluronic acid in a formula.
STRENGTH (PERCENTAGE %) or CONCENTRATION:
Amount of hyaluronic acid in a serum is determined by both the strength - aka % percentage and the concentration, where the ingredient is listed on the ingredient list. The easiest way to tell the highest amount of hyaluronic acid in a serum is to first look at the ingredient list as each ingredient is listed on the label from the highest concentration to the lowest.
Quick example - if mineral oil is 2nd on the list and hyaluronic acid is 5th, the formula contains more mineral oil than HA. Not great as the hyaluronic acid will likely never reach the skin as the mineral oil will block it.
Also, while not required the label may include the actual percent 1% - 2% or strength of hyaluronic acid in the serum - not to be confused with 100% pure concentration. This confusion of 1% and 100% is simply one of misunderstanding as both mean something entirely different. We will take a moment to clarify this as it is important to know the differences moving forward.
The strength is the percentage % of the actual amount of hyaluronic acid powder in a serum. All hyaluronic acid starts out as a powder, it is then mixed into a solution making it a topical. Since hyaluronic acid can attract and hold up to 1000 times it weight in water, mixing in more hyaluronic powder than what can be absorbed by the amount of water will turn the solution into a jello like substance making it impossible to use as a topical. Optimal strengths are 1% - 1.5%.
The concentration of an ingredient in a serum is listed from highest to lowest on the ingredient list. If you see 100% pure hyaluronic serum on the label, it simply means that it is a 100% concentration of the one ingredient, hyaluronic acid. Then of course water - needed to make it a topical & preservative. Concentration is simply how some labs label their serums to distinguish the concentration and purity of hyaluronic acid in their serum, especially if they began decades ago.
SOURCES of HYALURONIC ACID:
The source of hyaluronic acid that is used in serums, varies. While there are some that still use rooster comb, animal derived hyaluronic, most hyaluronic acids are made in labs using vegetables and/or grains. And yes the source matters not just in a vegan or animal preference but in effectiveness. Sugarcane, sweet potato and corn render the most effective hyaluronic powder.
HOW PURE IS THAT HYALURONIC SERUM?
Hyaluronic serum purity depends on exactly what IS ACTUALLY IN the formula and more importantly, what isn't. A pure HA serum should contain only the active ingredient of hyaluronic acid, water - needed to make it a topical and ideally a natural preservative. It matters less if the hyaluronic acid serum is a 1% strength, a 1.5% strength or a 100% concentration - what makes it PURE and MOST EFFECTIVE is what's in the formula, period. Pure means limited ingredients, which refers to the least number of ingredients in a formula. Skip the chemicals, fragrances and 5 preservatives.
Yes it is agreed that when adding a hydrating hyaluronic acid serum to any routine, that it be the purest in order to be the most effective hydrator - which in turn amps up your entire skin care routine. Hydrators help plump and smooth fine lines for younger looking skin that bounces back. Using a hydrator with a drying alcohol or five preservatives is simply a waste of time and money no matter what the percentage or concentration.
Example 1: a 1% strength multi-weight hyaluronic acid serum with only the three necessary ingredients to make it a topical serum - water, hyaluronic acid and a preservative - is much more effective than a 1.5% strength single or multi-weight serum with six other ingredients.
Example 2: Two 1% hyaluronic acid serums with the same six ingredients but serum A has the hyaluronic acid as the second ingredient and serum B has the hyaluronic acid as the fifth ingredient. Which one is going the be the most effective and has the highest concentration of hyaluronic acid?
Yes, of course it's serum A as hyaluronic acid is higher on the ingredient list. They both have a 1% strength of hyaluronic but it exists in a higher concentration in serum A as indicated in it being listed second on the ingredient list and as opposed to being the fifth ingredient in the formula.
Read & compare ingredient labels so you know that you are getting the purest, most effective HA serum. Each ingredient is listed on the label from highest amount or most abundant to weakest or least amount. For your quick reference, we have compiled a list of some of the most popular hyaluronic serums on the market to help you distinguish and compare between formulas.
COMPARE POPULAR HYALURONIC ACID SERUM INGREDIENT LISTS:
Susanne Kaufmann Hyaluron Serum
$169.00 per ounce - from Sugarcane & Corn
No % Noted
Hyaluronic is the 2nd ingredient plus 2 other ingredients.
Aqua (Water), Sodium Hyaluronate (Hyaluronic Acid), Citric Acid (Preservative)
WATTS BEAUTY SIGNATURE BLEND Hyaluronic Serum
$7.24 per ounce - from Sugarcane and Corn
1.5% Strength with High, Medium & Low Weight Hyaluronic
24 Hour Hydrating Plump
Aqua/Water, Sodium Hyaluronate (3 Multi-Weight Hyaluronic Acid), Spectrastat (Coconut Derived Preservative)
WATTS BEAUTY AMAZING BOOST Hyaluronic Serum
$8.80 per ounce - from Sweet Potato
1% Strength with Medium & Low Weight Hyaluronic
48 Hour Hydrating Plump - Favored by Estheticians
Hyaluronic is the 2nd ingredient plus 2 other ingredients.
Aqua/Water, Sodium Hyaluronate (2 Multi-Weight Hyaluronic Acid), Radish Root (Natural Preservative)
WATTS BEAUTY PURE HYALURONIC Acid Serum
$4.25 per ounce - from Corn
1% Strength - High Weight Hyaluronic
12 Hour Hydrating Plump
Hyaluronic is the 2nd ingredient plus 2 other ingredients.
Water, Sodium Hyaluronate (High Weight Hyaluronic Acid), Radish Root (Natural Preservative)
LOREAL REVITALIFT DERM Hyaluronic Acid
$23 per ounce - No source noted
1.5% Strength Hyaluronic Serum
Hyaluronic is the 5th ingredient plus 13 other ingredients that include castor oil and chemicals, therefore not truly a pure hyaluronic serum.
Aqua/Water, Glycerin, Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Secale Cereale Seed Extract/Rye Seed Extract, Calcium Pantothenate, Dipeptide Diaminobutyroyl Benzyl amide Diacetate, Ascorbyl Glucoside, Disodium EDTA, Pentylene Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.
NEUTROGENA HYDRO BOOST Hyaluronic Acid
$18 per ounce - No source or % noted
Hyaluronic is the 20th ingredient plus 31 other ingredients that include fragrances, alcohols and many chemicals and fillers.
Water, Glycerin, Dimethicone, Butylene Glycol, Neopentyl Glycol Diheptanoate, Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate, Sododecane, Dimethiconol, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP copolymer, Ethylhexylglycerin, Benzyl Alcohol, Sodium Lactate, Cetearyl Olivate, Bisabolol, Chlorphenesin, Sorbitan Olivate, Sodium PCA, Fragrance, Sodium Hyaluronate, Crylates/C10-30 alkyl Acrylate - too many more to name...
SKINCEUTICALS HYALURONIC ACID INTENSIFIER
$102 per ounce - No source noted
Hyaluronic is the 10th ingredient plus 29 other ingredients.
Sold on sites like Dermstore with a warning of only ground shipping due to high fragrance flammability ingredients.
See for yourself by searching the Dermstore website for, SkinCeuticals Hyaluronic Acid Intensifier
Water, Cyclohexasiloxane, Glycerin, Alcohol Denat., Hydroxypropyl Tetrahydropyrantriol, Propylene Glycol, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Polysilicone-11, Polymethylsilsesquioxane, Sodium Hyaluronate, Dimethacone, Tocopherol, Phenoxyethanol, Capryloyl Salicylic Acid, Octyldodecanol, Bis-Peg/Ppg-16/16, Peg/Ppg-16/16 Dimethicone, Peg-20 Methyl Glucose Sesquistearate, Ammonium Polyacryloyldimethyl Taurate, Caprylyl Glycol, Xanthan Gum, Dextrin, Oryza Sativa Extract, Rice Extract, Disodium Edta , Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Sodium Hydroxide, Adenosine, Citrus Nobilis Peel Oil, Mandarin Orange Peel Oil, Limonene, T-Butyl Alcohol, Cellulose Acetate Butyrate, Polyphosphorylcholine Glycol Acrylate, Polyvinyl Alcohol, Sodium Chloride, Butylene Glycol, Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate.
So How Do You KNOW Which HA is the Best for YOUR Skin?
You best bet is to always go for the purest hyaluronic acid serum as it will render optimal, longest lasting results.
You can have the best skin care routine but an optimal routine includes a pure hyaluronic acid serum.
Once you have re-plumped your skin with a pure hyaluronic acid, it's the perfect time to add age defying actives like collagen boosting peptides, niacinamide and retinol.